SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Michael “Jim” Delligatti, the man who created the iconic Big Mac sandwich and unwittingly poisoned generations of Americans, died in his home Monday. He was 98. Though not the name or face most people associate with McDonald’s, Delligatti was the pioneer who perfected one of the fast food giant’s most recognizable items. He opened his first franchise in 1957. He came to own and operate an additional 47 chains, making him one of the largest franchise holders in the company’s annals. Not only did Delligatti introduce the nation to the Big Mac, he also proved instrumental in developing the equally infamous breakfast fare, making him one of the most prolific, albeit unintentional, killers in American history.
A Secret Cabal Drowned in Secret SauceWhen Delligatti first approached McDonald’s with his recipe, corporate decision makers rejected the concept. Two years later, after Delligatti decided to sell the beefy behemoth on his own, the company moved forward with the sandwich as part of its official brand.
The rest, they say, is legend. As NPR observed, “Now, almost 50 years later, the Big Mac is sold in more than 100 countries and has become the most popular sandwich on the planet, according to the fast-food chain.”
Delligatti, by all counts, was a true innovator and an admirable man. He served in the Army during World War II. His inspiration for the McDonald’s breakfast menu came from seeing hungry workers struggle through overnight shifts in Pennsylvania’s steel mills. But his most renowned concoction -- a Frankenstein’s monster of food cobbled together by “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun” -- would unleash a fatal epidemic of type 2 diabetes, morbid obesity and health-related diseases on an unsuspecting public.
Lobbyists for the fast food industry scoff at claims that double-decker burgers butcher more Americans annually than acts of terrorism.
“Big Macs don’t directly murder anybody,” one lobbyist said. “They’re not some sort of nutritionist Jack the Ripper. They’re more like Jack Kevorkian, happily assisting with a willing party’s suicide.”
But Beau Borgen, a dietary historian at San Narciso College, says the sandwich and the government’s interest in it for half a century tell a more lurid tale.
A Weapon of Tasty DestructionAccording to Borgen, the delay in rolling out Big Macs had nothing to do with skeptical McDonald’s executives.
“After McDonald’s reviewed the recipe for what would become the Big Mac, one of their food scientists sent a sample to the FDA for analysis,” Borgen explained. “What they discovered was an inert but easily activated bomb -- a seemingly innocuous sandwich that was capable of massive destruction. They urged McDonald’s to hold off on selling the burger.”
“To emphasize the severity of the threat,” he added, “you must realize that this occurred in an era when doctors still believed cigarettes were good for one’s health.”
A Big Mac by itself posed no immediate threat, but when combined with French fries and a soda, the bomb was armed. “Fries were the fuse, and Coke was the flint,” Borgen said.
Once the FDA alerted other federal agencies of the Big Mac’s potential, defense and intelligence directors took an interest. The Cold War was raging, and global unrest was brewing.
“FBI, CIA, DoD and others thought they could weaponize the Big Mac,” Borgen revealed. “The sandwich could have been the most potent biological weapon since mustard gas. Of course, the problem was that it was gross and unappealing to potential enemies. You couldn’t poison Islamic or Israeli insurgents because a Big Mac isn’t anywhere near kosher or halal. Indians won’t eat beef. Despite its blandness to an evolved palate, the special sauce made the Big Mac too spicy for beet-eating Soviets. Cubans just figured out how to make their own, probably healthier version. And the Chinese just seemed to know better.”
A Monster Loosed on CreationCiting government records, Borgen said that the military dismissed the possible deployment of weaponized Big Macs around 1959. Leaders of the Armed Services, however, have not abandoned McDonald’s. In 2012, researchers discovered that “Chicken” McNuggets contain the chemical preservative tBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone, which is a petroleum-based product used as an anti-foaming agent. The same chemical is required in the manufacturing of Silly Putty -- and plastic explosives.
Although the effects of the weighty 540-calorie sandwich remained unknown in the 1950s, McDonald’s was given the green light to sell the product.
“I really wouldn’t call this an act of corporate greed,” Borgen emphasized. “Alone, the Big Mac was certainly not a healthy choice, but it wasn’t seen as a serious risk. Even Delligatti ate one of these culinary abominations once a week for decades. And he made it to 98. But nobody at that time could have conceived of a world where supposedly intelligent Americans would gobble down these monstrosities three times a day.”
As the McDonald’s empire expanded and changed management, the corporate greed took hold.
“Soon, they were selling value meals -- the complete bomb in one discounted platter -- and encouraging kids, innocent children, to persuade their parents to buy these goddamned suicide machines every freaking day,” Borgen said, visibly emotional.
To offset the ill effects of the burger, McDonald’s executives expedited construction of Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities. These facilities acted as a temporary residence for families with hospitalized children who were receiving treatment nearby.
Today, the charity states, “Ronald McDonald’s Houses provide over 7,200 bedrooms to families around the world each night, with an estimated value of $700 million in lieu of hotel costs.” Borgen called the decision necessary, given the anticipated number of children that would be hospitalized by Big Macs.
“It was the last act of humanitarianism from the company’s original leaders,” Borgen noted, “before a new breed of tycoons swept in with an assortment of clowns and freakish food creatures to poison a civilization for profit.”
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